Cheika confident Phipps can handle Bledisloe duties

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by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he has complete confidence in halfback Nick Phipps, who is set to step into the starting role against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

With regular starter Will Genia returning to French club Stade  Francais, Phipps is the obvious next in line, having come off the bench in each of the Rugby Championship Tests.

Phipps has been the subject of criticism from opposition supporters in recent weeks, after some unusual in-match incidents caught the eye of social media pundits, but Cheika said the All Blacks’ cauldron would be the perfect opportunity for the NSW half to grasp.

“I wouldn't be putting him out there if I didn't think he could step up,” he said.

“He's pretty lucky to have a big moment, that's what you want, you want to be in there and that's when you want to play your best as well.

“Part of learning to become the best player you can be is being in those situations and managing them well and doing the best by your team.

“In the broader context of things...he's got to go there and do his job and do it really well, that's all there is to it.”

Nick Phipps in action at training. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile Genia’s loss was not ideal for the Wallabies, Cheika spoke repeatedly about expanding their player depth on Monday and suggested it would be hypocritical not to embrace the chance to do exactly that.

“We're talking about building depth, [we] can't cry about it when someone's not there,” he said.

“This is what we want. We want different players being tested in the environment and over this match and then going on to the spring tour, we'll continue to do that.

“Obviously he's played very well, so I'm not going to say he’s not going to be missed but I have a lot of faith in Nick Phipps, I think, he's been a guy I've been involved with since I came back into Australian rugby pretty much from day one nearly and I trust him a lot.

“I think he's a great player but he's also very passionate about playing for Australia and I think he'll see this as a great opportunity to have a crack at earning that nine jersey back.”

Cheika is set to make a call on injured duo David Pocock and Sean McMahon as early as Tuesday, with Pocock seen as a more likely inclusion for the Auckland Test.

The backrower hasn’t played since Australia’s win over Argentina in Perth, after breaking his hand in that clash, while McMahon was a casualty in Pretoria with low grade ankle syndesmosis.

David Pocock is in contention for a return. Photo: Getty Images“We'll have a handle on where they're at today in training and then we'll get stuck into it tomorrow and we'll see who can do what and base our decisions from there,” he said.

“They wouldn't be here if we didn't give them a chance.

“Probably Pocock more than Seany - he's probably a bit further down the road in relation to his recovery.

“I just wanted to get them in and have a look and see where they're at because they haven't been around for a few weeks.”

The Wallabies head to Auckland on Thursday ahead of Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park, kicking off at 5:35pm AEDT, following the Wallaroos-Black Ferns Test at 2:30pm AEDT.


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